Two public performances of the professionally-acted drama Look Who’s Knockin’ will be presented by the Land Stewardship Project (LSP) March 22-23 at St. Catherine University Recital Hall (2004 Randolph Avenue, St. Paul). Both performances begin at 7 p.m., and will be followed by an audience discussion centered on the issues raised by the play. The cost is $10, payable at the door. For more information, contact LSP’s Amy Bacigalupo at 320-269-2105.
The one-act play presents an ethical dilemma faced by an older farming couple, Nettie and Gerald: do they follow the trend and sell their land for top dollar, or pursue a path to help the next generation of farmers gain secure, long-term access to land? “Many landowners and farmers are in the same tough situation Nettie and Gerald are, particularly at a time of record-high farmland prices,” said LSP organizer Karen Stettler.
The play was written by LSP organizer Doug Nopar and was created out of numerous interviews and stories of beginning farmers as well as retiring farmers and landowners. It uses humor, storytelling, and the common everyday tension in an elderly farm couple’s relationship to prompt personal reflection and community discussion about what it is going to take to secure a future for stewardship farmers on the land.
“The tension walks you right up to the point of decision about transferring land that you have cared for. It challenged what I thought I knew about how to make that decision,” says Paula Foreman, an LSP member and beginning farmer in the Twin Cities area. “There is room for a decision based on my values—it is more than just an intellectual decision.”
Look Who’s Knockin’ has played to packed houses in southeast and western Minnesota during the past two years. It has also been presented in Wisconsin, Iowa, South Dakota and Illinois. After each of the play performances, landowners, beginning and established farmers and concerned community members have engaged in deep discussions about the challenges of passing farms on to the next generation.
“It was helpful to have the dramatization of Gerald and Nettie's thinking about end-of-life issues, which is something on my mind,” said Mary Ellen Frame, an LSP member and landowner from Northfield, Minn. “The play gave me a chance to talk to others who were facing these same questions.”
Beginning farmers play an important part in leading this conversation about the future of agriculture, said Stettler. “Through LSP’s beginning farmer initiatives, we’ve seen there are ways of getting a new generation of stewardship farmers established,” she said. “But they can’t do it alone—that’s where the community gets involved.”